Claudette was sitting at the kitchen table sketching when she heard knocking coming from the front door. She put her sketchbook ad pencil down and walked happily to the front door, peeking out the peephole. She was a little surprised when she thought who she saw was Valo and she quickly unlocked and opened the door, thinking maybe he had forgotten his key. She froze in the doorway when she saw the blonde hair. “Who are you?” She asked, ready to slam the door.
“You look distressed, sorry if I scared you. My name’s Elwis, I’m Valo’s brother.”
“Brother?” She studied his face. They did look a lot alike except Valo’s hair was long and purple where Elwis’ hair was short and blonde.
Elwis ran his fingers through his hair. “I guess he didn’t mention me. I don’t blame him, I said and did some things that would make me hate me.”
“Do you have proof?”
“Yeah of course.” He pulled out his phone and flipped through his photos then held it up for her to see the screen. There was a picture of Valo and Elwis, the former looking like he was no more than seventeen. Even then there was no doubt it was him.
“Look, don’t be too hard on him okay. He has his reasons for not telling you about me, just tell him I’ll be at L’Hotel, room twenty-seven. Mom and dad couldn’t get a hold of him and wanted to know if he was coming for Christmas this year. Just have him come and see me.”
“Okay, I will.”
“Thanks, I guess I’ll see you later.”
“You dont have to rush off”
“I do, He doesn’t like me and I don’t want him to find me chatting with you” Claudette sighed “okay, be safe” Elwis smiled “he doesnt like me and you wish me to be safe?”
“You’re still his brother”
“see you later” he said with smile lingering on his face. He walked away and Claudette shut the door, now anxious for Valo to get home and explain all of this. What had his brother done to make Valo dislike him so much he hadn’t even told her he existed. She hadn’t thought he kept anything from her. She went back to sketching so she wouldn’t stare at the clock and make her wait longer than it actually was.
She flipped the page and started drawing his brother, now he was in her head and she wanted to put him on paper. If she completed it before Valo came home she might even start the conversation with showing him the picture. She thought of his reactions and the possibilities of what was wrong between them as she drew, a bit of her conflict appearing on Elwis’s face.
Valo had never been happier to leave a store in his life. The one he and Claudette usually shopped at had been out of cod so he had had to take a taxi to another part of town, to a store he had never set foot in, to deal with a shop owner with a bad attitude. If he had not been trained to have such massive amounts of self control he would have knocked the man out and taken the fish then called his boss to take care of the blow back. He hailed a cab and climbed into the back seat with a sigh. He gave his address, just wanting to hurry and get home to Claudette. He paid the driver when he finally got home, mumbled a thank you and climbed out of the cab. He fished his keys out of his pocket and walked up the steps to the front door. He was surprised that it was already unlocked and became worried. He pulled his gun from the holster hidden under his jacket and slowly pushed the door open.
“Claudette baby, I’m home.” He said as he shut the door. “Are you here?”
“In the kitchen.” She called back and he slipped the gun back into its holster.
“Why isn’t the door locked?” He walked into the kitchen and put the fish in the refrigerator.
“Because I had a visitor today and I forgot to lock it after he left.”
“He? What kind of he? You weren’t hurt were you?” He sat down next to her, seeing she was upset and confused. “Claudette, are you alright?”
“No, I’m mad.”
“At what?” He grabbed her chin to turn her head and she jerked it away.
“At you for lying to me.”
“What are you talking about? I’ve never li…” She flipped her sketchbook open and turned it toward him. His heart gave a lurch as he found himself staring at his brother’s face.
“He came by today, looking for you. Your brother.”
He swallowed. “What did he want?”
“To talk. When were you going to tell me you had a brother? You told me about your parents, your aunts and uncles, but you left out the fact that you had a brother.”
“He’s not my brother.”
“Stop it, don’t you dare say something so insensitive. You’re nothing but an ass. At least you have a brother, you should be grateful no matter what.”
“You don’t know anything.” He shoved his chair back and stood.
“How could I when you lied to me about his existence. You’re supposed to be the person I can count on the most, the person who helps guide me through this crazy and confusing world, but instead you hide things from me. How can I trust you if you’d lie to me?”
“He’s doing it again, just like last time. He drove a wedge between me and my girlfriend in high school, he ruined my chances of going to law school, and now he’s here pushing himself between me and you. It’s perfect.”
“You need to talk to him, for all you know he had his reasons. He seemed like he really wanted to see you, so please just give him a chance. Calm down and tomorrow we’ll go talk to him together.”
“How can i calm down when you’re accusing me of lieing to you Claudette. I just didn’t mention him because I hate him. I never planned on seeing him again the rest of my life and even if he had his reasons you don’t just go changing other peoples lives. Your father had his reasons for doing the shit he did to you but it doesn’t make it okay and make it where you should be grateful you have him. Are you grateful he’s your dad Claudette just because he produced the sperm to create you? I doubt it”
She stood and slapped him. “What happened to you is nothing compared to what I went through and no matter what, my father is my father. I can’t hate him because without him I would not have met you so yes I am grateful.”
It shocked him being slapped and that she was so angry. “You’re taking his side then?”
“I’m on your side and I only want what is best for you and turning on family simply because something bad happened is just wrong. He’s your brother, the only one you have and if he is willing to make amends then why aren’t you? I bet it took him a lot to come here and find you and ask for forgiveness. You’re supposed to be the older brother, the one who teaches, the one who understands. I wish I had siblings, I wish I had someone I could turn to when my boyfriend is being a total jerk.”
He frowned. “Then what do I do?”
“Talk to him tomorrow.”
“Fine.” He rubbed his cheek, still feeling the sting of her slap. “Can I at least have a kiss?”
“Yes.” He grabbed her chin and pressed his lips against hers, feeling a little calmer now.
“I should punish you for slapping me.” He whispered when he pulled back.
“You deserved it, you can’t punish someone for doing the right thing.”
“It hurt you know, in more ways than one.”
“I’m not sorry, I won’t apologize.”
“Are you sure?” He traced her lower lip with his thumb, making her shiver.
She swallowed nervously. “Yes and I’m still mad. It’s going to take a lot of making up.”
“I didn’t lie.”
“You lied by omission.”
“Alright, I lied, I’m sorry.”
She sighed “anything else you’re keep from me?”
“No, he’s the only thing about my past i wish wasn’t there enough to try and ignore but for your sake I’ll put up with him. He wont exist any more if he decides to take you from me somhow. That will be the last fucking straw when it comes to his god complex”
“I know he apologized but you don’t play with others lives unless you think you just have all the answers and know better than everybody else”
“Valo” she said more sternly and he sighed “okay, no more talking about him. I can’t say anything nice”
‘I know he’s hurt you and it’s hard to forgive but you do need to try since he’s your brother.”
“as I said, for you. Now please lets not talk about it because I have no nice things to say about him so I’ll only make you more upset at me”
“Okay, you hungry?”
“make us some sloppy joes” he smiled “okay beautiful” Valo walked into the kitchen and Claudette followed. She hoped they would make up. He did seem nice and he had had years to grow as a person. Claudette also hoped Elwis had good reasons for the things he had done or Valo may seriously not actually forgive him.
Valo’s mind stayed on his brother as he tried to think of what he might really want. If it was money he would gladly give it, but he wouldn’t let Elwis get in his way again. They finished their dinner in silence and Claudette helped him wash the dishes. Once everything was dried and put away, Valo pulled her into his arms and kissed her. Her face turned red as her eyes fluttered closed. She felt butterflies brush her insides and her entire body seemed to melt into his. He hands made quick work of her clothes, leaving them in a pile on the floor. His lips drifted down her neck as he lifted her onto the kitchen table and her heart skipped a beat.
“On the table?”
“Why not, it’s our table.” He replied and let his teeth nibble over her collar bone to her breasts. His hand pushed between her legs, his fingers sliding slowly over her and then in her. She moaned, her hips moving with the rhythm of his fingers.
“Valo, please.” She whimpered, her fingers gripping his shoulders. He hastily removed his clothes and pulled her hips to the edge of the table. He laced his fingers with hers and pulled back to look at her face as he slowly pushed into her. Watching her come apart, the look of pleasure on her face and the way she clamped down around his shaft were almost his undoing. It took all his effort to take his time with her, to keep that slow pace and drive her crazy. Her back arched off the table and he slammed into her a little harder, sinking into her again and again until he emptied himself between her thighs.
“I love you Claudette, I hope that makes up for at least some of my bad behavior.” He kissed her softly and brushed his knuckles over her cheek.
“I love you too.” He pulled out of her and picked her up then took her up to their room. “Valo?” She said once he had them settles in bed.
“Um, what if I get pregnant?”
“Then you get pregnant and we become the two happiest parents in the world.”
He smiled and kissed her forehead. “Yeah.” She buried her face in the blanket so he couldn’t see the happy tears in her eyes. She didn’t want to trouble him with her tears when she wasn’t upset. “We’ll have to get a bigger place of course, but that’ll be fairly easy with how much I make. Does that sound good?”
“Yeah, it sounds great.”
He smiled and kissed her head again. Valo kept thoughts of his brother and the impending next day out of his head as he stroked her back. Tonight he would just enjoy Claudette, he needed to if he was going to have to stomach Elwis the next day and for who knows how long. Since Claudette didn’t have siblings and how she reacted he knew he was going to have to deal with his bullshit up until he did somthing really horrible before Claudette could understand and not force him to be around his brother.
He stayed up enjoying the closeness and keeping the next day from coming for as long as he could stand then finally drifted to sleep. In the morning he was woken by a kiss on the chest from Claudette. He smiled and sleepily said “good morning”
“Morning” she said happily, still beaming with the idea of children. “gravy biscuits for breakfast?” Valo asked and Claudette responded “sure” Valo got up and tugged some pajama pants on “I’ll make them, you go ahead and hop in the shower my goddess”
“yeah, you’ve been doing most of the cooking lately”
“Okay” Valo walked out and into the kitchen to get their food ready. His mind wasback on his brother without Claudette there to distract him. He couldn’t help but sigh and wish he didn’t have to go see him today.
He pulled out his phone and went through the contacts. Elwis’s name was still there. His thumb hovered over his name, he wanted to call him and ask him what he was up too, but he couldn’t do it. He didn’t want to disappoint Claudette. He sighed and dropped his phone back in his pocket then went back to fixing breakfast. Claudette felt refreshed once she stepped out of the shower and toweled off. She got dressed and put her hair up in a bun. The smell of ham, eggs, and blueberry muffins filled her nose and made her mouth water. She kissed Valo on the cheek as she passed him and pulled two coffee cups out of the cabinet. She filled them, pouring eggnog and sugar into them until they tasted perfect. She sat down at the table and Valo filled their plates.
“You made a really big breakfast.”
“Well, I might have gotten carried away just a little.”
She smiled adoringly at him. “I like it when you get carried away, you do some of the sweetest things.”
He grabbed her chin and kissed her lips, making her blush. “You really are the most gorgeous, most adorable woman I know. I love you.”
“I love you too.”
They finished breakfast, chatting happily about babies, their favorite names, what colors they would do the baby’s room, and about Claudette doing the baby announcements when the time came and how she wanted to have more than one baby so their oldest child would have siblings. It was all so exciting for them and it made eating go faster. They washed the dishes together then grabbed their jackets. Valo gave a sigh as he locked up while Claudette waved down a taxi. She held his hand while he stared blankly out the window and wished she knew what was on his mind. She was sure he was thinking of what to say. When they finally got to L’Hotel Valo gave another sigh and she squeezed his hand reassuringly as they exited the taxi and headed inside. They went straight to his room and Valo knocked on the door. They could both hear movement on the other side of the door and then the door handle turned and was pulled open.
“You came, I’m gla…” Valo punched his brother in the face, knocking him back and onto the floor. Claudette grabbed his arm and he felt ashamed for losing his cool in front of her. “Well now that you got that out of your system, I guess we can talk.” Elwis said as he got to his feet, rubbing his jaw. “Damn, you still have the meanest right hook.”
“Get to the point.”
“Maybe you should come inside, I’m sure you don’t want someone calling the cops.”
Valo glared at him and begrudgingly stepped in with Claudette still holding onto him. He slammed the door behind him then sat down in the chair in the corner. He pulled Claudette onto his lap, knowing if she was there then he wouldn’t be able to get up and hit his brother again. Elwis sat down on the bed and gave him a small smile. “Now, what do you want?”
“To tell you that I can’t apologize for what I did.”
Elwis held up his hand. “Here me out, I did what I had to do for your own good.”
“How is getting someone to break up with me and ruining my dreams good?”
Elwis cleared his throat. “Jenna Hall was cheating on you, not just with one person either. She got around, banged anything that showed her interest. I found out, but was afraid of how you’d react so I manipulated the situation and purposely came between you too and as far as college, she was going there. Back then you would have forgiven her, I know you would have and she would have ripped you to shreds so once again I got in the way.”
Valo gritting his teeth. “You’re lying.”
“Believe what you want, but it’s the truth. Jenna was a whore who would have stomped on your heart without remorse. She liked using people and would have easily manipulated her way back into your life. I’m sorry that you hate me, I’m sorry I made you think for a minute that I was trying to screw your ex, but I’m not sorry for protecting you the way you would have protected me.
“See, coming here was a waste of time.”
“Fine, you don’t believe me.” Elwis got up and grabbed his phone. “Give me your phone.” Valo just stared at him. “Just hand it over.” He fished it out of his pocket and handed it to his brother. “Jenna’s number hasn’t changed, call her when you get home and ask her.”
“fine, I will”
“With how you’re acting I’m surprised you’d agree so easily”
“Claudette would force me to even if I said no. She’s why I’m here. I’d rather deal with you than have her pissed at me but if you find somthing wrong with her and decide to get on your high horse and do what you want with my life I will beat you senseless. You had no right no matter your intentions to ruin my dreams. Hell break us up but to keep me out of college because you wanted to make sure I lived how you wanted pisses me off”
“So I’m an asshole for not wanting you to be with a cheating bitch?”
“You’ve been with bitches”
“None that cheated on me. I was protecting you Valo”
You should have minded your own business.”
“How long would you have let a girl cheat on me? Are you telling me you wouldn’t do something? Besides, you should be glad you missed out on law school. You would have been wasted there, probably would have become bored and dropped out. If you had stayed and found out your ex was cheating on you, you would have built up a wall to keep others out because lets face it, you’re a romantic at heart and romantics take things like that a lot harder than most.”
“I really want to kick your ass.”
“Valo, Elwis that’s enough.” Claudette said calmly. “We’re going to go home and he’ll call Jenna. I want you to stay here until he’s had time to think.”
Elwis sighed, but nodded. “Alright, I understand.”
“Thank you and thank you for your honesty.” She stood. “Come on Valo.” She held out her hand and he took it. He didn’t even tell his brother bye, he just followed Claudette. The ride home was spent in silence and neither of them said anything until they were inside.
“I can’t believe that asshole.” Valo said angrily.
“Call your ex.”
“You don’t actually believe that crap do you?”
“Call, for me please.”
He pulled his phone out of his pocket, unable to deny Claudette anything when she was making such a pleading face. He found Jenna’s number and hit send. “Hello?” She said after the first couple of rings.
“Jenna it’s Valo.”
“Oh wow, how crazy. It’s been ages, what’s up?”
“I need to ask you about something. Did you cheat on me in high school?”
She was silent for a moment then sighed. “Yes, I uh I did.”
“So Elwis wasn’t lying.”
“He threatened me actually. He pretended like he was interested in me and once he got me alone he told me if I didn’t break up with you then he’d get his girlfriend to kick my ass since he’s a guy and was taught never to hit a woman.” She sighed again. “Look, I would have kept doing it, I was a shameless slut and honestly it would have been a lot worse if you had caught me. You’re the devoted type, that’s why you were so easy to hide from. You probably wouldn’t have believed Elwis back then.”
“I need to go, bye Jenna.”
He hung up and flopped down on the couch, looking defeated. Claudette sat down next to him and took his hand. “Well?”
“He was telling the truth.” He shoved his hair away from his face. “What do I do, Claudette? Do I forgive him, do I put it behind me and start over?”
“I can only tell you that if I had a brother or sister and they found out I was being cheated on, I would hope they would do or say something. That’s what siblings do and while his methods were underhanded and selfish, he was only looking out for you.”
“thats the thing though. He’s always been like that. If he’s in my life and is put in a situation like that again he’ll do whatever underhanded or selfish thing he wants. He’ll play the brother card again and expect it all to be okay because it always is, little Elwis will get to do what he wants and screw any consequences. He got away with everything growing up” Claudette sighed “he’s older now and it does show a lot he came to talk to you”
“He came to talk to me because our parents couldn’t contact me”
“It gave him a reason, he could have said no”
“ah but then he wouldn’t be perfect little suck up Elwis to our parents”
“Valo, please let go of atleast a little of that anger. He really was trying to be a good brother and if you had gone to law school you wouldn’t have met me so really he’s the reason we’re together” Valo sighed then looked at her, resting his hand on her cheek and stroking it with his thumb “now that isn’t a fair way to put it”
“It’s the truth Valo. Isn’t it better to be with me than to have your heart crushed by her?”
“Yes of course, but…”
“How much more proof do you need?” He didn’t have an answer. “I’ll show you.” She grabbed his hand and pulled him off the couch and to their room. “I’m going to astral project.”
“You don’t have to do that.”
“Yes I do or you’ll just keep being…like this.”
She pulled her shoes off and climbed into bed. “Claudette, there’s no reason to exert yourself. I mean what if you’re pregnant?”
“Nice try, now hush.” He pulled off his shoes and climbed in behind her, his arm going around her waist. He didn’t want to argue with her, especially when he was feeling so conflicted. He kissed the back of her neck then fell silent as her body went limp. Sometimes it scared him when she would leave her body. Her skin would grow cool and he would check her pulse to make sure she was still there. Claudette drifted up through the ceiling and into the air. She floated over the city, still marveling at how beautiful it was. She flew to L’Hotel and into Elwis’s room. He was sitting on the edge of his bed, looking depressed. He stood, crossing the room and grabbing his phone. He speed dialed a number and held the phone up to his face.
“Hey mom, yeah I’m still in France, yes I saw him.” He paused for a moment and swallowed. “Uh no…” his voice cracked and he cleared his throat, “no I don’t think he’s going to be coming at least not with me there. I’ll just stay away. It’s fine mom, it’ll be better and you’ll actually get to see him.” He ran his fingers through his hair. “I know mom, I love you too, I’ll call you when I get home. Bye.” He hung up and set his phone on the chest of drawers. He unzipped a pocket on his suitcase and pulled out an iPod. He looked so sad and she wished she could hug him. She left his room, going back outside and let herself be pulled back to her body. Her body jerked when she reentered it, startling Valo.
“You okay?” He asked as he sat up.
“Yeah, I need my sketchbook.” She went over to the drawing table Valo had set up for her and sat down. Valo sat on the bed, waiting for her to finish sketching.
When she finished she showed him her work and said “He’s so sad Valo. I’m serious. On the phone he told your parents he wouldn’t go to Christmas so they could actually see you since you’re apparently avoiding all family functions that include him. Elwis loves you Valo and regardless thats not fair to the rest of your family to avoid them because he hangs out with them. Just give him another chance, please.” Valo sighed “Okay…lets go over there and talk to him”
“You forgive him”
“well…the path he put me on lead to you and hopfully he is more grown up by now and wont annoy the shit out of me. I love him too, always have. Just never wanted to see him again.”
“If you fight again promise me you wont punish your parents by not seeing them”
“I wont, I promise, even if they take his side”
They left their home, climbing into a taxi and giving the driver directions to the hotel. Elwis pulled his door open after a few minutes of knocking and looked at them in surprise. “Back to tell me how much of a good for nothing brat I am?”
“No, can we come in?” Valo asked and Elwis moved out of the way. He shut the door behind them then leaned against the wall, his arms crossed. Valo stood in the middle of the room, his hands in his pockets as he tried to gather his thoughts.
Claudette nudged Valo. “Just say what’s on your mind.”
Valo sighed. “I guess maybe I’ve been too harsh on you and I guess maybe I’ve been holding a grudge out of selfishness. Avoiding you isn’t fair, acting like I hate you isn’t fair, and not seeing our parents isn’t fair. I don’t want you to apologize for what you did and yes I do think you’re a spoiled brat, but that’s what the youngest is supposed to be. I’m the oldest, I’m supposed to be the mature adult and instead I’ve been sulking like a child. I want us to be brothers, I want to spend the holidays with you and mom and dad, I just want to put all of this behind us for good.”
Elwis teared up and Claudette crossed over to him and hugged him. “I’m fine.” He said, but accepted her hug anyway.
“You’re still such a baby.” Valo said as he walked over and tussled his brother’s hair.
“You better shut your whore mouth.” They both smiled at each other, both of them feeling like a huge weight had been lifted off their shoulders. Claudette laughed and turned to Valo, wrapping her arms around his waist, feeling proud of him.
He smiled at her then leaned down to kiss the top of her head. “I’ll almost feel silly going back home right away so want company for a short while or are you tired?”
“You know I’m a night owl”
“You good Claudette?”
“yes, lets stay as long as you two would like”
‘what should we do?” Elwis asked. “well, I guess we could catch up.”
“you and I both know theres no need for that. Mom and dad tell us about eachother regardless of if we want to hear it or not so you know about me and I know about you despite how long it’s been since you were willing to talk to me.”
“yeah, Im not sure” Valo said feeling awkward since they hadnt hung around eachother in such a long time.
Claudette smiled warmly. “Why don’t we get some ice cream then go watch a movie?”
“Looks like she’s got it all figured out.” Elwis said smiling back. “You’re really lucky, Valo.”
“I know, she’s my angel.”
“Mom and dad are going to be really happy to meet her. It’s about time you settled down. Are you two married yet?”
“Good, because mom and dad would want to be there.”
“Then I’ll guess we’ll have to do it over Christmas.” Claudette said and Valo kissed her forehead.
“That’s a wonderful idea baby.” She just gave him her sweetest, most loving smile. “Alright, come on she wants ice cream and a movie.” They all left the hotel, both Valo and Elwis feeling more comfortable around each other by the minute. By the end of the day they were joking around like old times and Elwis decided to extend his stay for a couple of days. Once they were back home and settled in bed Valo said, “You really are a blessing Claudette.”
“Of course you are, you did something not even my parents could do, you brought me and Elwis back together. You have no idea how amazing that is to me.” He tipped her head back and kissed her. “I love you so much Claudette, I don’t know how I’m going to repay you for making me a better man.”
“Just keep being this wonderful.”
He smiled. “I can definitely do that.”